Environment

Democrats in U.S. House introduce wide-ranging climate bill

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A wind farm is shown in Movave, California, U.S., November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Reuters) - Three Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled a wide-ranging climate bill on Tuesday that embraces President Joe Biden's goals to curb climate change including decarbonizing the electric grid by 2035.

Introduced by Representatives Frank Pallone, Paul Tonko and Bobby Rush, and incorporating input from the Biden administration, the bill includes a federal clean electricity standard requiring a percentage of retail power sales to come from sources that produce little or no carbon emissions.

The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation's Future Act, or CLEAN, requires 80% clean electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2035.

The power could come from sources including wind, solar and existing nuclear energy. That could provide a boost to nuclear power, an industry experiencing shutdowns amid low prices for natural gas, a competing fuel.

The bill also sets a goal of a fully decarbonized economy by 2050.

On transportation, the largest source of carbon emissions, the bill authorizes $100 million annually from fiscal 2022 to 2031 for entities that install publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) supply equipment. It also requires the energy secretary to establish a program to help determine where EV charging stations are needed and expands EV access in disadvantaged communities.

The legislation, which needs to pass committees and then the full House and Senate and be signed by Biden before becoming law, does not include a carbon tax, a mechanism supported by some Republicans and companies.

"The votes are just not there for a price on carbon," also known as a carbon tax, Pallone told reporters. He said a carbon price had concerns from an environmental justice perspective because it could allow industries to keep polluting as long as they buy permits from entities that have cut emissions elsewhere.

"It's time to try something new," Pallone said, noting that carbon tax plans failed in Congress most recently in 2009/2010. Tonko, who prefers a carbon tax, called a clean energy standard "achievable."

Three Republican representatives, including David McKinley from coal-producing West Virginia, said the bill's mandates would raise energy prices and make the country more reliant on Chinese critical mineral supplies.

They want policies to "capture all the advantages of our abundant resources, which include coal, hydropower, nuclear technologies, and clean natural gas."

Another climate bill from McKinley, and Representative Kurt Schrader, a Democrat, includes a less ambitious goal of requiring utilities to cut emissions 80% by 2050. Pallone said his bill could be adjusted to draw Republican support.

Given the thinnest possible Democratic majority in the Senate, Pallone suggested that senators could try to pass the bill under budget reconciliation in that chamber. That process requires only 51 votes instead of 60 in the 100-member Senate.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney

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